“At least some of the teams are out of the Telkom Knockout but we hope that some of the clubs will release the players and that we get the best available squad”
THE South African Football Association (Safa) are working tirelessly to make sure that the Under-23 men’s soccer team is represented by quality players in the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) in Egypt next month.
The tournament in Egypt will serve as the qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games and currently eight teams have qualified for the tournament in Egypt with only the top three booking themselves a ticket to Japan next year.
The South African Under-23 side is pitted against Nigeria, Ivory Coast and Zambia in Group B while Group A is made up of Egypt, Mali, Cameroon and Ghana.
The top two teams in each group will qualify for the last four. The finalist will qualify for the Olympics and then the losers of the semi-finals will battle it out for the third spot.
The problem is that this Under-23 event does not fall within the Fifa calendar and most clubs are not keen on releasing their players. However, Safa president, Danny Jordaan, is optimistic that they will find a solution with Premier Soccer League (PSL) clubs regarding the release of players.
“If we get all the players, I have no doubt that we will qualify for the Olympics. That’s why the CEO, Russell Paul, has already engaged the PSL on the issue of players. Obviously, while the tournament will be going, the Telkom Knockout will be also taking place here at home.
“At least some of the teams are out of the Telkom Knockout but we hope that some of the clubs will release the players and that we get the best available squad,” Jordaan explained in an interview with Independent Media.
The Under-23 team possesses top stars like Phakamani Mahlambi (Mamelodi Sundowns), Sipho Mbule, Teboho Mokoena and Jimmy Wember (all with SuperSport United), Reev Fosler and Happy Mashiane (both of Kaizer Chiefs), Lyle Foster (Cercle Brugge) and Luther Singh (Chaves in Portugal) to mention but a few.
“We’ve got quality in our team. If you look at them, they should just make it. We will, over the next few days, hope to get the final answer about which players are available.
“Some of the players that are playing in Europe have already said that they want to come and play. Some of the clubs in Europe have already agreed,” Jordaan told the gathered media.
“We’ve got an excellent group of players. Many of them are playing in the Premier League here in South Africa and top leagues all over the world. It has been a long time since we had such quality in our Under-23 team. Of course, we want them to qualify,” Jordaan said.
South Africa qualified for the last Olympic Games in Brazil three years ago and now with the country hoping to get back there coach David Notoane is set to announce his squad this week and it remains to be seen if the clubs will agree to release their players.